Despite facing formidable challenges amid a testing economic crunch, the publishing industry and education sector in Nigeria encounter complex array of intellectual property theft including book piracy that negatively impacted its operations.
Hassan Bala, managing director at Learn Africa maintained that book piracy is a clog in the wheel of progress of education because it discourages students and authors’ creative ability.
Bala reiterated that piracy is thriving in the country for lack of strong institutions to fight and scotch the menace.
“If the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) have the strength it requires to fight this piracy, just like the NAFDAC in the days of late Dora Akunyili, and people are seen being prosecuted and jailed for piracy, certainly it would not have thrived,” he said.
Similarly, Emeke Iwerebon, chairman of Learn Africa said; “The widespread unauthorised distribution and counterfeit copies negatively impacts the viability and profitability of legitimate publishers.
Piracy stifles creativity as there can be no incentive to renew or innovate, besides, it distorts pricing as pirates do not invest in origination, pay taxes, royalties and are not legitimate employers of labour.
And since this criminal enterprise is of an international dimension, and requires security agencies, the Department of Security Services (DSS) should be drafted in to help investigate the international conspirators.”
The managing director further lamented the government’s seemed nonchalant attitude toward piracy, because according to him, if the government appreciates the need to fight piracy, it will adequately fund and equip NCC like NAFDAC, EFCC, and other agencies.
Buttressing the point, Iwerebon said; “The NCC is working very hard but do not have the capacity to deal with this hydra-headed criminal enterprise, and needs additional funding and assistance of the Nigerian customs; because most pirated books are printed offshore.”
Experts argue that if there is effective synergy between agencies such as EFCC, customs, and DSS, among others, this criminal enterprise will be curbed.
“If the customs synergies with the NCC in informing the commission of the influx of these books at the point of entry, in fact, they will not even allow such books to come in because in the first instance they will have to provide their identities as the right owners of these books.
But because of the loose control at the ports, and there are no synergy between the customs, copyright commission, and other agencies, the situation escalates,” Bala noted.
He expressed optimism that curbing piracy would create more employment opportunities for a reasonable number of the populace.
“If we have people in the creative industry gaining as much as they ought to, most of them will not go for white-collar jobs. Most people will prefer to be creative writers.
Hence, anything impeding the citizens getting the maximum returns on their investment should be viewed as sabotage and economic crime,” he said.
Research has shown that many publishing firms have gone moribund as a result of piracy and intellectual theft, hence the call for government intervention.
Moreover, many school owners are found to be fueling piracy because of their quest to maximise profit by patronising cheap and pirated books.
“Pirates only pay to print books, and hence, they sell even at prices that are far cheaper than publishers. This is killing creativity!
Once an author sees that what comes to him at the end of the year as royalty is a peanut, he is discouraged and that discourages creativity.
The publishers on the other hand are in the industry for business, we have stakeholders, we pay taxes huge taxes to the government, and we have our authors that we pay royalty, our staff who earn their livelihood with us.
When piracy eats into what we are supposed to make as our cash flow via sales, it kills the industry,” Bala stressed.
He maintained that the surging effect of book piracy is a very critical one because looking at the publishing companies that have gone moribund and calculate the number of staff that have lost their jobs, it is a huge loss.
“We’re talking about millions of people that have become jobless, that would have been profitably engaged, working and providing for their families and helping the educational sector, so the government should really look at the bigger picture and do the needful in this area,” he urged.